Kids Help Phone: Compassion in a Crisis
It’s the middle of the night, the phone rings and the counsellor picks up to hear an eight-year-old boy on the other end. He is alone and a little scared. He asks if someone on the other end of the line could sing him Happy Birthday.
That is just one of the 235,000 calls and emails that the Kids Help Phone received last year. The helpline is staffed 24 hours a day by counsellors who are professionally-trained therapists and social workers. They have heard absolutely everything from the mundane to the unbelievable but they try and answer every call with compassion and trust. They keep each call and post completely confidential and anonymous.
The Help Phone has gotten smart in the last few years and become a really good Internet resource. They accept questions online and the counsellors respond with very thoughtful answers that everyone can read. It also has lots of age-appropriate information for kids and parents. It has forums, games and even has a letter-builder to help kids kick-off a meaningful conversation about bullying with an adult.
I had always thought that the Kids Help Phone was something that my kids would never need and so I never really thought about it much. But their mandate has changed to incorporate everyday issues facing kids of all ages. When it was founded in 1989, they expected to receive mostly calls from kids in crisis. But what they have found is that only 30 percent of the calls are crisis calls, the rest are everyday kid problems often about school, mental health, family, and bullying.
It is heart-wrenching to read through the online posts as you really get a sense of what kids are going through these days. Everything from eating disorders, to cyber-bullying and family dysfunction is addressed on the site. The counsellors are obviously well-trained in how to identify strengths and give options and a sprinkle of hope. I can’t imagine how hard it would be work there, the callers are completely anonymous and the counsellors will never know the ending to the story.
So any kid with a question they don't think their parents can handle, or an issue that is eating them up inside or even if they just need to hear a friendly voice sing, can call: 1-800-668-6868. Spread the word, you never know who needs a sympathetic ear.